When Raya Liston spends a month at an ashram in India, she doesn’t just find herself: She also finds true love.
Seventeen-year-old Raya has a plan: major in English at UCLA and make her Indian mother and biracial (half black, other half unspecified) father proud. Spending the summer after high school at the Rishi Kanva ashram in the Himalayas with her cousin Anandi is definitely not the plan—until she receives a phone call from her dying grandmother, Daadee, saying she’s left something important for Raya and Anandi hidden on the ashram grounds. Against her better judgment, Raya leaves for the ashram, where she unexpectedly falls in love with Kiran, a budding filmmaker who breaks rules as passionately as Raya follows them. In the process of falling in love and uncovering the secrets Daadee left, Raya realizes that the real question is not what she wants to do but who she wants to be. An insightful, layered feminist retelling of the Hindu myth “Shaktunala,” the book features a diverse cast of characters who grapple with equally diverse issues in a richly drawn setting. Raya’s candor and self-reflection infuse the narration with the perfect balance of insight and momentum. Her relationship with her family is particularly refreshing: Unlike in most books about diaspora, Raya’s Indian relatives support her, guiding her through conflict rather than creating it.
A beautifully crafted, truly feminist coming-of-age story featuring nuanced characters in a unique setting. (Romance. 14-18)